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Emilie Drinkwater

Date of Surgery: 5/18/2016
Update (5/2017): Emilie has returned to guiding full-time and received the AMGA Guide of the Year Award.

About Emilie

My home base is Salt Lake City, UT.  I grew up in the Northeast, ski raced as a kid, and later switched to nordic ski racing during high school and college.  While I was in college, I was also introduced to rock and ice climbing.

Career Background

I think my career chose me.  When I graduated from college (BA Anthropology) I didn’t really know what to do with myself but I definitely had student loans to pay back.  What I did know is that I wanted to be outside, to be doing something tangible, and to be able to share climbing and skiing with others.  So, I begged my way into a job as a climbing instructor in the remote northern Adirondacks of NY state.  Determined to make guiding a career on it’s own, I worked hard to gain both personal and guide experience in the rock, ice, alpine, and ski disciplines.  Over the years I was lucky to have opportunities to climb and ski throughout the world from the small mountain ranges of the Northeast to some of the world’s biggest ranges including the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, Alaska, and Canadian Rockies.  IFMGA certification has opened additional doors and opportunities and I have current ski and climb trips planned in Iceland, Scotland, China, and the Alps…as well as the more local mountain ranges of the Adirondacks, Tetons, and Wasatch.  Despite this knee injury, overall it’s been a good year and I’m proud to have just received the AMGA Guide of the Year Award!

Treatment Procedure and Recovery Plan

On March 20th, 2016, in an otherwise insignificant fall while skiing, I tore my LCL, MCL (near complete), ruptured my ACL, and severely bruised the femoral head and tibia of my left leg.  Due to the severe ligament damage I wasn’t able to undergo surgery for 9 weeks after the initial injury.  However, with two months of pre-hab, I went into surgery strong and was fortunate to only need ACL reconstruction.  My recovery time was estimated at 9 months.  Now, after 6 months of dedicated PT, I’m feeling great and planning my winter as usual.



"As a full-time mountain guide, I’ve lived life on the financial edge for as long as I can remember, always thinking I’d get ahead eventually. Becoming a fully certified (IFMGA) mountain guide was one of the best career choices I’ve made, though it put me in significant debt. The moment I injured my knee I knew I was in trouble as I was looking at a minimum of 6 months without work (and the reality has actually been 9 months out of work). Thanks to my husband’s job I do have health insurance but I’m grateful that the KBF stepped in to cover all of my deductible, out-of -pocket expenses, and 6 months of physical therapy — not insignificant expenses! Without this invaluable assistance, I would have been forced into even greater debt and likely would have had to reconsider my career as a guide. The existence of the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation is a huge beacon of light for those of us who end up injured in a career that demands a healthy body but often at a wage that doesn’t allow room for error. "

- Emilie Drinkwater